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Volume IX Number 1
and diligent bureaucrats are two prime sources concerning the carpets
of the past. While Americans are occasionally in the former category,
they are absent in the latter, with one apparent exception, presented
here. A State Department circular of June 10, 1889, asked the U.S. Consular
Service to report on the subject of carpet manufacture. The various consuls
in Turkey responded with specific information:
"Report by Consul Emmet, of Smyrna. There are no factories,
mills, or distinct establishments properly so-called in the districts
of Asia Minor where carpets are woven.. .Nearly every house at Ushak,
Ghiordes, and Conia has a loom; some have even two or three. These belong
to the owners of the houses themselves. The weavers are all women and
girls. The mistress of the house superintends the work of her daughters,
or hired journeywomen and apprentices. The looms are of wood, roughly
fashioned. A vertical or slightly inclined frame supports two horizontal
rollers about five feet apart...There are now from 800 to 900 looms at
Ushak, all worked by private owners in the courtyards or main rooms of
their houses. At Ghiordes the number of looms is estimated to be about
300; at Coula, to be about 200.
"The proportion at Ushak is 70 per cent of carpets to 30 per cent
of rugs and mats. The carpets vary in size from 12 feet by 9 feet to 50
feet by 25 feet, and in a few exceptional instances more. For a very large
carpet, exceeding the last-mentioned dimension, a special loom would have
to be constructed. The mats and rugs vary in size from 2 feet 9 inches
by 1 foot 6 inches, to 11 feet by 8 feet.
"At Ghiordes it is estimated that the manufacture of carpets and
rugs is about the same as at Ushak, while at Coula the proportion of mats
and rugs is much larger, and it would not be an overestimate to say that
80 per cent. of carpets is the correct output of that section. The bulk
of the looms at Coula are not wider than 5 to 7 feet.
"At Ushak, the number employed in the manufacture of carpets and
rugs, including the dyers, is from 5,000 to 6,000. At Ghiordes and Coula
the number varies from 1,500 to 6,000....The number of hands at work varies
according to the season, as many work in the fields in summer and manufacture
carpets in winter...
"At Ushak the dyeing, save in rare instances, is no longer performed
by the weavers themselves, as in former times, but is carried on by a
separate class (of men). Spinning is carried on by elderly women at odd
moments, when not occupied with their household duties. The yarn is loosely
spun, so as to allow the fibers to mix slightly together in the pattern
and present a blended appearance. The washing of the wool is performed
by men in the streams and combed and spun by women. The bulk of the wool
is spun in the outlying villages of Ushak, etc. At Ghiordes the division
of labor is similar to that of Ushak, while at Coula the spinning and
dyeing is usually done by the weavers themselves.
"The carpet merchants in Smyrna have native agents at Ushak, Ghiordes,
and Coula, who act as intermediaries between said merchants and the owners
of the looms. These native agents are paid a commission carrying from
3 to 4 per cent., and their duties consist in superintending the carpets
while in process of manufacture and accepting and delivering the same
when completed. Advances are usually made to the owners of the looms,
but total payment is not effected until the carpet is taken from the loom
and measured. The price is fixed per Turkish arsheen or pike of 26 5/8
"The bulk of the carpets and rugs made in the interior are for export
and a very small portion of the whole remain in the country. Ushak turns
out about 300,000 arsheens or pikes [1,500,000 sq. ft.] of carpets per
annum. Ghiordes and Demardjik about 65,000 pikes [325,000 sq. ft.]; Coula
20,000 pikes [100,000 sq. ft.]. England imports about two-thirds of the
whole product. America ranks next in importance, then France and Austria,
and lastly, Germany and Italy.
"The Smyrna carpet dealers are either the special agents of the European
consuming firms, and as such charge a commission varying from 3 to 5 per
cent., or else they submit firm offers free on board at Smyrna, which
would include such remuneration as they are able to secure for themselves....
"Sivas. Report by Consul Jewett. Owing to the want of any
system of collecting statistics by the government or otherwise, it is
impossible to give any very definite replies to the questions asked as
to the number of establishments, looms, and persons employed in the manufacture
"The carpets and rugs manufactured in this area... are entirely of
wool. The industry is carried on by families in their own houses. There
are no factories. It is impossible to say how many persons are employed.
In almost every village there are a number of families who make carpets.
Hand-looms only are used. Most of the work is done by women and young
girls...Three to four piasters (14 to 19 cents) is considered a good day's
"The dyeing, spinning, weaving, etc., are all conducted unitedly,
the women of each family engaged in the business doing all the work from
the spinning of the yarn by hand, dyeing it with vegetable dyes, to the
weaving and completion of the carpet. The carpets seldom exceed 3 by 4
feet in size. The product is sold usually at home, being placed on the
market, by the makers going from house to house, or by sending the carpets
to Constantinople to be sold in the bazaars.
"There has recently been started in this city by two or three families
the manufacture of a new style of carpet which is quite remarkable for
the beauty and novelty of the patterns and the excellence of the finish.
The prices asked for these are higher than has been usual, and average
about 32 cents per square foot.
"It may be observed here that the common people invest their savings
in carpets as the people of other countries do in savings-banks, handing
them down from father to son, and selling one when hard pressed for money,
so that one is often surprised to find in the poorest of homes a collection
of very valuable rugs.
"Syria. Report by Consul Bissinger, of Beirut. There are no
manufactories of establishments in the sense that those words are understood
in industrial centers. Carpets are exclusively made by peasant women and
girls, residing in villages located within the political subdivisions
known as 'Hakkar', 'Hossu', 'Safita', and 'Hazzoor' in the Mutessarrifiate
of Tripoli, Syria. The most important of these villages -- about a dozen
in number -- is doubtless that of Haidamoor, about 30 miles east of Tripoli,
which seems to excel all others in the quality, durability, and design
of the carpets it produces. There is also a good quality of rugs made
in a village called Fakeh or Fiki, which are marketed at from $8 to $20
per piece. Fakeh is distant about 25 miles from Baalbek, and politically
belongs to the district of the same name in the Vilayet of Syria.
"Power looms do not exist in Syria, and although it has not been
possible to ascertain the precise number of 'hand' looms, it may be approximately
stated as 350 in all....To make the average-sized carpet, for instance,
of 3 pics or 2 1/4 yards long by 2 pics, 1 1/2 yards wide, would consume
at least six weeks of continuous or uninterrupted work, which is not possible,
as the operator is a woman who has domestic duties to perform, besides
devoting much time to field labor...
"Every loom has a female attendant or worker, who is sometimes assisted
by a young girl, and the carpet industry in Syria is exclusively in the
hands of women. Most of the rugs are made with a small square of some
decided color, generally blue upon a black ground, placed in a very conspicuous
place, intended to ward off the 'evil eye' .....The number of persons
engaged in carpet-making in the Tripoli district is problematical, but
probably does not exceed 500...Fairs are periodically held in 'Calaat-el-Hosson'...where
merchants from Tripoli, Homs, and Hamath gather to make purchases...Unless
picked up by tourists in their voyages along the coast, these rugs are
exclusively marketed in Turkey by merchants from Tripoli, Homs, and Hamath.
"Early in this century [19th] a number of people from the vicinity
of Broussa emigrated to the Tripoli and Hamath Mutessarrifiates, in Syria.
These people were familiar with the art of making rugs and introduced
the industry into the various villages in which they settled. The village
of Haidamoor became especially celebrated for its rugs, and many specimens
remain to testify to the beauty of design and color....the present inhabitants
of this village...have entirely lost the original designs and coloring
introduced by their Turkish ancestors.
"The rugs made to-day are of very inferior designs as compared with
the ancient ones; the prevailing colors are usually red and black, varied
occasionally crimson and black, with black or dark brown figures at both
ends. In one village....the colors which predominate are red and green
with white borders, having white circles about 2 inches in diameter with
either red or green centers. A rude sort of carpet is the specialty of
another village; it is from 20 to 30 feet long and 4 feet wide, made in
stripes about 2 inches wide of brown color, alternating with a dingy yellow,
black and a dirty white, the white and black being the natural colors
of the wool.
"Until quite recently a beautiful rug of a brown or velvety black
was manufactured, but is no longer to be seen....Blue, green, red, old
gold, orange, and other colors were formerly extracted from roots, leaves,
and barks of trees....but the introduction of cheap foreign dye-stuffs
have now completely superceded them. Rugs vary in size from 2 feet square
to 3 feet wide by 12 feet wide by 12 feet long." (1)
Just how the consuls gathered their information is unknown, and interpretation
of the descriptions and details in these reports is the business of Turkish
carpet experts. Highlights are: (1) that a described Syria product was
marketed in Turkey; and, (2) that weaving in Sivas entailed all wool items
with vegetable dyes. It is difficult to say what significance should be
attached to the reports' omission of westernmost Asia Minor (e.g., Milas,
Gordes), but the absence should be noted.
- U.S. Consular
Reports, "Carpet Manufacture in Foreign Countries", GPO,
1890, pp. 307--312.